January 25, 2017

According to a report from CNBC, Donald Trump's Mar-A-Lago raised membership fees from $100,000 to $200,000.

I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that he intends to use Mar-A-Lago as an occasional retreat from the White House. Oh, wait.

Either way, a membership at Mar-a-Lago now includes a chance to mingle with the 45th president. Trump plans to use the resort as his occasional "Winter White House." He has visited twice since his election — first for Thanksgiving and then over Christmas and New Year holidays.

It would be instructive to know who will pay those higher fees. Will his foreign partners and friends be paying more for some access to the president?

Tell me more about how Trump isn't benefitting financially from his office? But wait! There's more. Bloomberg reports that the Trump Organization has changed their plans to build hotels around the world and instead plans more in the United States.

Trump Hotels Chief Executive Officer Eric Danziger suggested the company’s broad U.S. ambitions while saying it shelved plans for expansion in China, where the president’s comments have already led to rocky diplomatic relations.

“There are 26 major metropolitan areas in the U.S., and we’re in five,” Danziger said after a panel discussion Tuesday at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in Los Angeles. “I don’t see any reason that we couldn’t be in all of them eventually.”

Since Trump hasn't actually transferred ownership of his businesses to his sons, but instead just the management, he will certainly benefit from the branding of his hotels here in the United States, right?

Of course, his foreign partners aren't left in the cold. At the inaugural, they got VIP treatment according to Mother Jones.

But Trump made clear that existing foreign deals would remain in place. Partners in two of those projects—Tanoesoedibjo, with whom Trump is developing a pair of luxury resorts in Indonesia, and Hussain Sajwani, a Dubai-based real estate developer who has licensed Trump's name for luxury villas and lush desert golf courses—attended the inaugural festivities.

It's possible he should just continue to do this out in the open, because it's giving CREW a lot of ammunition for their lawsuit, filed last week.

Since Trump refused to divest from his businesses, he is now getting cash and favors from foreign governments, through guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings, and valuable real estate deals abroad. Trump does business with countries like China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, and now that he is President, his company’s acceptance of any benefits from the governments of those countries violates the Constitution. When Trump the president sits down to negotiate trade deals with these countries, the American people will have no way of knowing whether he will also be thinking about the profits of Trump the businessman.

“President Trump has made his slogan ‘America First,’” said Bookbinder. “So you would think he would want to strictly follow the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, since it was written to ensure our government officials are thinking of Americans first, and not foreign governments.”

CREW is represented in the case by an all-star team of top constitutional scholars, ethics experts and litigators who have combined to argue 45 cases before the Supreme Court. The lawyers on the case include CREW’s board chair and vice-chair Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, the top ethics lawyers for the last two presidents, Constitutional law scholars Erwin Chemerinsky, Laurence H. Tribe and Zephyr Teachout, and Deepak Gupta of Gupta Wessler PLLC.

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